Alternative confessions, conflicting faiths: A review of the influence of Augustine on Heidegger [Book Review]

Abstract

The extent of the influence of Augustine on Heidegger, long only indicated in a few notes in Being and Time, has come into focus with the publicationof Heidegger’s earliest lectures. Far from one among many sources upon which Heidegger draws, we now know that Augustine’s Confessions is a central source of concepts for the early Heidegger. While this is further evidence of the ongoing relevance of Augustine to contemporary philosophy, it does not necessarily makeHeidegger an Augustinian thinker. The question of the degree to which Heidegger’s philosophy is compatible with Augustine’s theology is the subject of a recentlypublished volume of papers, The Influence of Augustine on Heidegger. While the editor, Craig de Paulo, proclaims the advent of an “Augustinian phenomenology”founded upon Heidegger, several contributors exhibit more caution, pointing out important divergences between Heidegger—whom no one would call a Christian—and Augustine. The author sides with the skeptics, reading Heidegger as in fact a subversion of Augustine. Heidegger reverses Augustine’s central insight, that the restless heart is intentionally structured, directed toward union with God. Heidegger’s anxiety in the face of death has no intentional term; it is self-reflective,Augustinian agitation without that which agitates it

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Sean McGrath
Memorial University of Newfoundland

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